Counterfeit Medicine News for the weeks of November 23 and 30, 2020
Florida submitted its application to HHS for permission to run a Canadian importation program on November 23, 2020.
On November 27, 2020, Canadian Health Minister Patricia Hajdu signed an order prohibiting the export of medicines intended for the Canadian market if that export would cause or exacerbate a drug shortage in Canada.
COVID-19 counterfeits and fraud:
Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) has joined INTERPOL and Britain’s National Crime Agency in warning about and preparing for organized crime diverting, counterfeiting or constructing fraudulent schemes around COVID-19 vaccines.
According to Dr. Kristina Acri’s November 23, 2020 article about the counterfeit medical supply trade, the International Chamber of Commerce anticipates the global counterfeit trade will reach $4 trillion by 2022.
The Federal Trade Commission warned U.S. residents not to be fooled by fake drive through COVID-19 testing sites that have cropped up in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, and Washington. Check whether a site is legitimate on your state or local health department’s website. Report fake sites at ftc.gov/complaint.
A San Diego, California doctor who was already facing one count of mail fraud for selling fraudulent $4,000 COVID-19 “treatment kits” has been hit with additional charges. A superseding indictment alleges that the physician stole the identity of an employee to acquire genuine hydroxychloroquine legally from legal pharmacies. He also imported hydroxychloroquine powder from a Chinese supplier who mislabeled it as “yam extract” to get it into the country. The mislabeled powder turned out to be baking soda.
The FDA warned Pennsylvania-based Avazo-Healthcare, LLC to stop selling unapproved COVID-19 test kits and unproven products for preventing and treating COVID-19.
Mexico’s Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks warned that it had found counterfeit versions of Ivermectin and Ivermin in circulation. The drugs have been promoted on social media as useful in treating COVID-19.
Cornwall authorities warned residents not to be taken in by scammers who have been traveling in the U.K. offering to “mist” or “fog” homes to kill any trace of the coronavirus.
37-year-old Justin Ash of Murrieta, Califonia received a 24-month sentence and an order to forfeit approximately $780,000 for importing bulk quantities of central nervous system depressants from China, pressing them into unapproved pills, and selling them as “research drugs” to buyers.
Federal authorities charged seven Washington residents and one Oregon resident for their alleged parts in a drug trafficking ring that distributed counterfeit fentanyl pills and other illicit drugs through the Puget Sound area.
Law enforcement in Austin, Texas concluded Operation Spyder Web, arresting 13 current and former University of Texas students for manufacturing and trafficking counterfeit pills (including fake Adderall made of methamphetamine and fake Xanax and oxycodone made with fentanyl) and other illicit drugs.
A 25-year-old Arapahoe County, Colorado man was charged with 13 counts, including first degree murder, after he allegedly gave a counterfeit oxycodone to a 16-year-old girl from Lakewood who died of fentanyl poisoning.
Detectives in Marysville, Washington charged a 36-year-old man who allegedly shot and killed 42-year-old James Castle during the sale of 500 counterfeit fentanyl pills on November 8.
A 22-year-old Providence, Rhode Island man was arrested in Milford, Massachusetts on November 24, 2020 after he sold counterfeit fentanyl pills to an undercover agent.
Pill press and pills confiscated during the investigation in Austin, Texas. (Source: DEA)
HSI in New Orleans, Louisiana reported the seizure of 51,000 counterfeit items, including counterfeit medicines, during an operation that began in late October.
In North Carolina, the Union County Sheriff’s Office and the Monroe Police Department seized 34 pounds of pills pressed to look like roxicodone during a drug bust.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the Hidalgo Port of Entry arrested a woman carrying 20,000 counterfeit fentanyl pills.
CBP Agents near Amado, Arizona seized one-and-a-half pounds counterfeit fentanyl pills hidden in a car’s air conditioning unit after a K-9 alerted them.
On December 1, 2020 the Yavapai County, Arizona Sheriff's Office made two separate traffic stops, seizing almost 500 counterfeit fentanyl pills from two locals and 8,000 counterfeit fentanyl pills and other drugs from an Ohio resident.
In Bismarck, North Dakota, the Metro Area Task Force reported that they had arrested three people and seized 4,000 counterfeit oxycodone pills made with fentanyl in October.
Police in Weatherford, Texas believe that the deaths of two area 19-year-olds may be connected to counterfeit Percocet or other fake prescription medications.
The families of 21-year-old Roy Feliciano of Wyoming, Michigan and 20-year-old Isabelle Sutter of Grand Rapids spoke out to warn others about the counterfeit pills that killed their loved ones this summer.
Minnesota law enforcement warned about a surge in sales of counterfeit pills that caused poisoning deaths in March and October.
Brunswick, Virginia Sheriff Brian Roberts reported that deadly counterfeit painkillers made entirely of fentanyl had been found in the area. "The secondary market is tainted,” he warned, “and you will die.”
PSM is keeping a steady eye on public reports of dangerous counterfeit drugs and other medical products. Check back for next week’s summary.